Those feelings of loneliness
Do you ever feel alone? When we feel that way, we’re probably not really alone. Feelings don’t do a good job of reflecting reality. They’re a result of our interpretation of events and situations. Since our views of reality are often skewed, our feelings seldom reflect what’s really happening.
But let’s say, for sake of argument, that there are times when we’re really alone. Isolated. Estranged. Closed off from people. What would that be like? How would we really feel?
Jesus knew what it was like to be left alone. He even foresaw it. He told his disciples about it. “Look, a time is coming—and has come—when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me” Jn 16.32.
What utter desolation! Jesus was forsaken by those closest to him, abandoned by his friends, left in a state of total isolation. Nobody could go with him, literally, to the cross. No one could suffer with him. No one but him could feel the separation from the Father as he hung between earth and heaven.
As alone as Jesus was, however, the Father was with him. At every step, the Son was accompanied by the Father, because he was doing the will of him who sent him.
Jesus’ confidence in the presence of the Father was prefigured by David’s words in Psalm 27.10: “Even if my father and mother abandoned me, the Lord would take me in”. God is faithful and he will not forsake his people.
And those views of ours about reality? Something happens which we interpret as being negative, and we doubt the good will of others or even question God. Death, loss of loved ones, getting fired, betrayal, gossip, all these and more can leave us feeling alone. Unloved. Excluded.
In the midst of God’s people, we can find love. Not the happy-sappy kind of love that ignores the warts, but godly love that accepts and confronts, affirms and corrects. If we’re looking for constant approval with no downsides, the family of faith is the wrong place to go. For that, there is nowhere to go, for no one gives it. If you find someone who does, it will be a sick and demented relationship.
What to do then with those feelings of loneliness? First, do an internal search to see if you’re pushing people away by your actions. We might be afraid of getting close to others. Past hurts can keep others at a distance. Fear of risking again can cause the heart to spurn the overtures of those who care.
Second, show yourself friendly. There’s truth in the old adage that to have a friend we must show ourselves friendly. (That’s the KJV rendering of Proverbs 18.24, but not the likely meaning; it is true, however.) Be open to relationships; don’t destroy them.
Third, don’t interpret criticisms or conflicts as nuclear options that end it all. See them rather as opportunities to overcome problems and deepen the relationship level.
Fourth, be sure of your relationship with God. Do his will, please him in all things, obey his commands, live according to his Word. Jesus was secure in the love of the Father and could therefore consider objectively the moment when his disciples would abandon him.
Fifth, that means that we seek to please God above all others. We want to please people, for their benefit, not ours, 1 Cor 10.33-11.1.
Sixth, put yourself in the midst of God’s people, where there is spiritual safety, growth, and service. This is where Christians belong. Here, the greatest possibilities exist for true, healthy relationships.
Seventh, know the truth, and let what you know keep you grounded. All of John 16 is Jesus saying, here’s what’s been happening, and here’s what’s going to happen. In the last verse of the chapter and section he speaks of peace, courage, and victory.
Doing this, we will never be alone. And if those feelings of loneliness appear, we’ll know how to deal with them.
¶ A person on a social-media site asked, “What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?” I answered: “This month is turning out far different than the previous two. So I’ll go with these: Turbulent, challenging, learning.” Isn’t that what the bumps in life are all about, learning to deal with them in the love and spirit of Christ, and looking to leverage them for the kingdom of God?
¶ Hurt people can be dangerous when they lash out, as often happens. Hurt Christians give glory to God and count themselves blessed to suffer for the name of Christ. Matters not the wrongs done to us, but rather the right relationship that the Lord Jesus Christ brings to all who will hear. Instead of nursing wounds, we ought to nourish others upon the wonderful message of salvation.